Eye in the sky: Security firm to fight suburban crime with drones

A security company wants to use aviation technology as a way of fighting crime in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

The security company will introduce a squadron of drones, operated by trained personnel, that link directly to Fidelity’s mobile command centre.
Image: Fidelity Services Group

In partnership with UDS Group, a South African company specialising in unmanned aerial vehicle systems, Fidelity Services Group says it will introduce a squadron of drones, operated by trained personnel, that link directly to company’s mobile command centre.

“The command centre is linked to a tactical response unit for both reactive and proactive purposes. Customers contact a call centre to activate the drone response and on sites where Fidelity ADT already provides guarding, the drone response will be worked into the incident-escalation procedure.”

On their website, UDS said their drones are equipped with electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors which feed data to highly skilled operators who “verify the breach and qualify the breach using aerial surveillance and then direct ground tactical forces to the targeted area”.

A two-month trial was launched in the greater Fourways area and is expected to be extended to other suburbs and shopping centres from August onwards.

Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann said the two-month pilot programme will be integrated with fibre-connected Vumacam surveillance system and “in strict accordance with all privacy and aviation restrictions and laws”.

Bartmann said all operations are performed in compliance with CAA regulations for remotely piloted aircraft systems and the UDS-approved RPAS operators’ certificate (ROC) and operations specifications.

“This includes obtaining landowner permission for the area to be flown over, as well as a flexible use of airspace and approved flight plans.

“Each aircraft flown has a valid certificate of registration and RPA letter of approval and is listed on the UDS OpSpec. The pilots operating the aircraft have valid remote pilot licences and RPAS maintenance technician authorisation.”

Bartmann believes the drones will act as a highly effective visible deterrent to criminals.

Bartmann said they had also identified high-risk routes and hiding places in green belts and have identified vagrants occupying private land and posing a risk to communities.

“We have also noted that the awareness around drone operations in these areas has contributed to criminals second-guessing their normal modus operandi for criminal activity.

“We believe drones and the deployment of a mobile drone team will help to immediately track down and locate criminal elements once an outer perimeter on an estate has been breached, or in any scenario where suspects are at large on a security estate.

“Drones can also play an important role in other emergency situations that require monitoring, such as dangerous fires and land invasions,” he said.

Bartmann said Fourways was earmarked as one of the high-crime areas following the hard nationwide lockdown.

He said in recent months there had been a spate of burglaries in homes and businesses and vehicle thefts in the area.

A breakthrough came in May when the Fidelity Vumacam system and correlating information picked up a suspicious car that had been in the vicinity of similar crime incidents and the teams were able to successfully red-flag the vehicle as soon as it entered the area, Bartmann said.

He said a suspect, who is believed to be closely involved in the house burglaries, was caught and handed over to the Douglasdale police.

“We are very excited about the introduction of drone technology in the residential space as an additional layer of security. Its success has already been proven in remote areas and we have no doubt we will have similar success in specified residential areas,” he said.

TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)

Iavan Pijoos

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